Canon's EOS 550D offers a more affordable alternative to the top-of-the-range APS-C-format EOS 7D, but can it compete against the slightly more mature Nikon D90? We find out in our test: Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90

Verdict

Some people may consider it a little odd to pitch a 12-million-pixel camera against a model with 18 million pixels, but if you want a Nikon DSLR with more than 12 million effective pixels you have to be willing to part with around £4,800, putting it way beyond the reach of most novice and enthusiast photographers.

At around £736, the average street price of the Canon EOS 550D is about £110 more than the Nikon D90. The extra money brings an additional six million pixels, which is important for those wanting to make very large prints or crop and selectively enlarge images. Low-light photographers will also appreciate the extra stop on the EOS 550D’s sensitivity range.

I really like the EOS 550D, and it is very capable, but as I switched between it and the D90 during this test, I began to prefer using the D90, especially with moving subjects. The Nikon camera feels more solid and its AF system is a little more decisive. Whether I was shooting daffodils nodding in the breeze or runners at the six-mile point of a half-marathon, I had greater confidence in being able to get the subject sharp and keep it that way with the D90.

Some of the differences between the EOS 550D and the D90 can be explained by the fact that the EOS 550D is Canon’s top-end entry-level camera, while the D90 was built with more experienced photographers in mind. Although I would prefer to have the scope to make larger prints because of the EOS 550D’s higher pixel count, I found using the Nikon D90 a more enjoyable experience, and as enjoyment is a key part of any hobby I think the D90 is a better choice for enthusiast photographers, provided they are happy with a comparatively low pixel count.

As 12 million is now a rather below average pixel count for an enthusiast-level DSLR, I have reduced the D90’s score.

Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90 Scores

  Canon EOS 550D Nikon D90
 Tested as: Entry-level DSLR Enthusiast DSLR
 Rated: Very good  Good
 Overall score:  83% 78%
 Features:  7/10  8/10
 Noise/resolution:  27/30  23/30
 Dynamic range:  8/10  8/10
 LCD/viewfinder:  8/10 8/10
 Build/handling:  9/10  8/10
 Autofocus:  8/10  7/10
 Metering:  7/10  8/10
AWB/colour:  9/10  8/10

Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90 Focal points

In-camera sensor cleaning

Both cameras have sensor-cleaning functions to help keep the sensor clear of dust and debris.

Post-capture adjustment

Unlike the EOS 550D, the D90 has a Retouch Menu that allows photographers to adjust captured images. As well as converting images to monochrome, this allows images to be brightened using the D-lighting facility, or cropped and resized to make smaller versions.

Multiple exposure

It is still fairly unusual to have a multiple exposure facility in a DSLR, but the Nikon D90 allows users to shoot up to three images that are then automatically overlaid into a single composite. Helpfully, the auto-gain facility takes care of adjusting the exposure so the final image looks correct.

  1. 1. Canon EOS 550D vs Nikon D90 at a glance
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. Resolution, noise and sensitivity
  5. 5. White balance and colour
  6. 6. Page 6
  7. 7. Viewfinder, LCD and Live View
  8. 8. Dynamic range
  9. 9. Autofocus
  10. 10. Verdict
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